We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore LappĂ©, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Libertarian Municipalism: An Overview

by Murray Bookchin, 1991, from Social Ecology.
Capitalism’s “grow or die” imperative stands radically at odds with ecology’s imperative of interdependence and limit. The two imperatives can no longer coexist with each other–nor can any society founded on the myth that they can be reconciled hope to survive. Either we will establish an ecological society, or society will go under for everyone, irrespective of his or her status.

Post-Peak Oil Reality Trumps Right Wing Trend

by Jan Lundberg from Culture Change.
Now the post-peak oil age is staring us in the face, with the Great Recession signaling the end of bubble prosperity. There is no consensus on how things will play out -- whether a Depression, total collapse or prosperous green technotopia -- or when.
As we cannot control collapse that must stem largely from the loss of cheap, abundant energy -- a process already begun -- it is time to put our "political" energy into building local economies and forming our family-neighborhood tribes for the tough future and eventual sustainable culture ahead.

EU Demands Canada Completely Overhaul Its Intellectual Property Laws

by Michael Geist from his blog. You won't read about this in Canadian newspapers.
Late last year, a draft of the European Union proposal for the intellectual property chapter of the Canada - EU Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement leaked online.  The leak revealed that the EU was seeking some significant changes to Canadian IP laws.  Negotiations have continued and I have now received an updated copy of the draft chapter, complete with proposals from both the EU and Canada.  The breadth of the demands are stunning - the EU is demanding nothing less than a complete overhaul of Canadian IP laws including copyright, trademark, databases, patent, geographic indications, and even plant variety rights.

On Pop Clarity: Public Intellectuals and the Crisis of Language

by Henry Giroux from Truthout. Some deep thoughts about the role of intellectuals in our society, the use and misuse of language, and corporate media.

KFC's Bacon Sandwich On Fried Chicken "Bread" Starts Killing People Nationwide April 12

from The Consumerist. The IPad is not the only hot, must-have item out there. Be the first one on your block to get one of these. This is not an April Fools joke!

The Decline: the Geography of a Recession (time lapse video)

from the American Observer. View this unusual graphic showing unemployment growing over the past three years.

A Spotlight on the Invisible Faces and Hands of Agriculture

from Civil Eats. 
The harsh reality for farmworkers also includes little to no access to healthcare, poor occupational safety and frequent accidents on the job without healthcare support from the employer. There’s also considerable exposure to toxic chemicals while working in the fields, which creates more health concerns. The Southern Poverty Law Center reported that women farmworkers face additional problems such as poor access to children services, and sexual harassment and assault in the workplace.

Timeout for the basketball playing dog (video)

Seeing is believing.

Short-Term Medicaid Rate Hike Breeds Long-Term Concerns

from The Washington Independent. Be prepared for more disillusionment (assuming you had any illusions) as the new health care bill goes into effect over the next ten years.

High-stakes Eurasian Chess Game: Russia’s New Geopolitical Energy Calculus

by F. William Engdahl from Voltaire. Engdahl is an astute observer of the new Great Game that the ruling classes of the great powers are fond of playing at the expense and lives of the rest of us. We need to keep informed of these games as we work toward a decentralized world free of such criminal elites.

New START Treaty and old superpower policy

from Voltaire. The authors reveal the reality that lies behind the hoopla about the new treaty with Russia that is advertised as limiting nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, the US and Israel, with its own stockpile of weapons, crank up the propaganda against Iran's nuclear industry.

“We Are in a Cabal... Five or Six Players ... Own the Regulatory Apparatus. Everybody Is Afraid to Regulate Them"

from Washington's blog. Why do you think that everyone is afraid to regulate them? The people behind these blood-sucking institutions are the ruling class. Congress, the President, Supreme Court, etc. are all political theater to distract us. It's a kind of April Fools joke played out every day of the year. The people acting in this political theater are essentially employees of the people who own and run the big banks, especially the biggest one of all--the Federal Reserve. Really! And there are no Santa Claus and Tooth Fairies either! It's time we all grew up.
...a bevy of bailed-out firms, including Citigroup, JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs, formed a new lobby calling itself the Coalition for Business Finance Reform. Its goal: to stand against heavy regulation of "over-the-counter" derivatives....

Friday, April 2, 2010

Tipping Point

from The Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability. I have only read the summary (the first four pages), but it looks to me like a very important document that attempts to shed more light on what we may expect to happen with declining fossil energy supplies and climate change. The emphasis appears to be on peak energy. The complete report is a 45 page pdf type document.
We are at the cusp of rapid and severely disruptive changes. From now on the risk of entering a collapse must be considered significant and rising. The challenge is not about how we introduce energy infrastructure to maintain the viability of the systems we depend upon, rather it is how we deal with the consequences of not having the energy and other resources to maintain those same systems. Appeals towards localism, transition initiatives, organic food and renewable energy production, however laudable and necessary, are totally out of scale to what is approaching.

Greeks say austerity steps 'unfair'

from Al Jazeera. 
Three quarters of Greeks think that government plans to cut the country's huge budget deficit are "socially unfair" because they are aimed at low-income earners, a poll has showed.
North Americans need to understand the various meanings of the word "socialism", especially when used in the European context. In North America the word is frequently used as a propaganda buzz word, almost a curse word, with little other meaning except that it has something to do with government involvement. But in Europe, because socialism often carried the connotations of social/economic justice, the word has often been adopted by capitalist and even fascist parties in order to provide a veneer of legitimacy to European governments. 

In Greece the ruling party is labeled as socialist, but is in fact a capitalist party that has promoted some limited welfare type programs. Most politically aware people identify such parties as "social-democratic" to distinguish them from genuine "socialist" parties in the Marxist sense, i.e, parties which promote extensive public ownership of the economy that is managed by working people. Social-democratic parties may also support government ownership of a few important industries, but the private ownership class is always the politically dominant class in such countries.

U.S. Recants Claims...

from Washington's Blog. The full headline for the article is: U.S. Recants Claims that Detainee Who Was One of the Main Sources for the 9/11 Report, and Repeatedly Tortured, Was Involved in 9/11 or Even Al Qaeda

The Bush administration's story is unraveling.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Anticapitalism and Climate Justice

from Climate and Capitalism.
The current crisis raises the urgent need to change the world from below and do so from an anticapitalist and radical eco-socialist perspective. Anticapitalism and climate justice are two struggles which must be closely linked.
...a movement able to challenge the dominant discourse of green capitalism, recognising the impact and the responsibility of the current model of capitalist production, distribution and consumption and linking the global climate threat with everyday social problems is URGENT [my emphasis].

Western Civilization and the Economic Crisis: The Impoverishment of the Middle Class

by Andrew Gavin Marshall from Global Research. 
Globalization has led to the formation of a truly global economy, where states have less influence in global economic factors, and increasingly the world economic system is controlled by a powerful minority of banks, international financial institutions, and corporations. This process has been facilitated by the major nations of the world, primarily the United States, and it has in turn led to the formation of a truly global ruling class. David Rothkopf refers to this global class as the ‘Superclass’ and has concluded that it is a class consisting of roughly 6,000 individuals, roughly one member of the ‘Superclass’ for every one million people.

Bitter Laugh (2:19m video and script)

by Chris Floyd from his blog. He captures the raw feelings of tragedy for those working people who are enticed, or forced due to economic circumstances, to go to war for the interests of the governing class.

The criminal NSA eavesdropping program

by Glenn Greenwald from Salon. 
That means that all 3 federal judges to consider the question have concluded that Bush's NSA program violated the criminal law  (FISA).  That law provides that anyone who violates it has committed a felony and shall be subject to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for each offense. 
I can hardly wait to see Bush locked up--hopefully in Guantanamo. ;-)

Obama’s Afghan visit: laying down the law to a US puppet

by David Walsh from the World Socialist Web Site. Walsh takes on the media spin regarding the visit.
One of the principal aims of Obama’s trip was to lay down the law, gangster-style, to Afghan President Hamid Karzai over the latter’s recent flirtations with China and Iran. Karzai traveled to Beijing and Tehran in the last few weeks, and he also received a visit from Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Obama opens US coastlines for oil drilling

from the World Socialist Web Site. The article provides some Obama quotes from his 2008 election campaign:
“It would have long-term consequences for our coastlines but no short-term benefits, since it would take at least 10 years to get any oil.”
“Offshore drilling would not lower gas prices today, it would not lower gas prices tomorrow, it would not lower gas prices this year, it would not lower gas prices five years from now.”
“When I'm president, I intend to keep in place the moratorium here in Florida and around the country that prevents oil companies from drilling off Florida’s coasts.”

Time out: "Our 10 favorite April Fools' Day pranks"

from Salon website.

The Government is Now Officially in the Banking Business

from Ellen Brown's website. She has written extensively about the ripoff of the American people by the Federal Reserve, a private consortium of banks that hide behind a thin veneer of government authorization and involvement.

The International Unemployment Day

from The Economic Populist. The author contrasts the Tea Party activists of today with activists in the 1930s.
...you have to wonder if these people [Tea Party activists] know ANYTHING at all about how their unemployment insurance and social security checks came into being. I'm only guessing, but I bet they probably believe that the federal government "imposed" these new laws on the people of America. The idea that the federal government fought the concepts tooth and nail, and were forced by a nationwide grassroots movement to approve it, is probably not something that has occurred to these people.
Of course, the Tea Party activists are not from the organic grass roots--they were created by Fox News Corp. Yes, corporations are clever enough nowadays to create their own activists by exploiting the misery of working people whose minds are controlled by the TV set.  Fortunately for working people of the 1930s, TV didn't exist. The ruling class had radio stations and newspapers, of course, but nothing that had the power of TV to fill the minds of working people with distractions and disinformation. On the other hand, we have the internet.

AFRICOM and the USA's Hidden Battle for Aftrica

from The Mail, a website from Ghana, Africa. This latest adventure of the Empire is mostly ignored or obfuscated by mainstream US media.

Blogs: Crucial or a Waste of Time?

from Washington's Blog. This astute blogger takes a close look at the question he poses and asks you what you think.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Iran: The campaign for regime change in its last phase

by Takis Fotopoulos from  The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy. This excellent article is about 5500 words, longer than what I usually feel is very readable via a computer monitor. I copied it onto Word and printed it out (double-sided copy).  The author not only provides insights about the events leading up to the present crisis with the Empire vs Iran, but an especially useful analysis of what he refers to as "the left boot". 

The crisis of neoliberalism (videos 8:57m & 9:35m)

from Real News Network. View both videos and/or read transcripts of an interview with a French economist. The videos/transcripts provide an excellent, concise understanding of neoliberalism, the current phase of capitalism.

Part 2

Hidden History of Cooperation in America

by Kathy McMahon from Peak Oil Blues Blog.
For the American living before 1800, a ‘wage slave’ was a mere step removed from an actual slave. To be an employee was one step above indentured servitude. You did it when necessity demanded, but only for as short a period of time as possible, and then returned to become more independent—your own boss.

The story of how we became ‘wage slaves,’ and the multiple revolts against this station, is a fascinating one, and part of our ‘untold history.
Conceptually speaking, wage slavery still is "a mere step removed from actual slavery". It might be argued that actual slavery is better. Think for a minute about being the property of, let's say, Donald Trump. He paid for you and thus has an investment in you. I'm sure he would take good care of his investment by seeing to it that you received good health care, shelter, etc., so that you could work for him as efficiently and productively as possible in order to increase his profits. 

People like Trump eventually realized back in the 19th century that it was much smarter to rent slaves than to own them. That way an owner could forget about taking care of their slaves and just rent new ones from a pool of unoccupied new slaves. Hence it became important for our ruling class of owners to insure that there were always many unoccupied, or "unemployed" slaves. Also, they thought it best from a public relations point of view to call wage slaves, "employees".  

Otherwise nothing changed. They still had to follow the orders of their boss and had no say over what work they performed and how they did their work. During the 1930s the owners and their bosses, after many years of struggles with recalcitrant slaves, finally gave their rented slaves the right to organize for better slave wages and the number of hours that they worked. But they did this only because of widespread fear of slave revolts and many ideas about public ownership of the economy that were current at that time when the economy was in a state of collapse. 

After WWII the owners embarked on an aggressive, and very successful campaign to effectively roll back many of the legal gains that wage slaves had made; and used other tactics to co-opt labor leaders and to educate the public on the evils of socialism and public ownership. 

Now we have arrived at another economic collapse. I wonder what scenario will present itself in the coming years. Will the idle American wage slaves revolt or passively descend into poverty and despair? Are the American wage slaves so brainwashed by many decades of indoctrination by the media and the educational system that they will assume that their problems are their own fault, and hence do nothing? Or worse, engage in self-destructive behaviors, steal from others, or find fascist type leaders appealing? Of course, there is always the opportunity to join the military and "see the world". I hear that the military services are currently filling their quotas for the first time in decades. Or they could work toward changing the system to something that was sustainable and just. Stay tuned. 

Israel lobby presses Congress to soften Obama's tough stance on Netanyahu

from the Guardian. The power of the pro-Israel lobby in the US never ceases to amaze me--apparently 3/4 of our representatives are controlled by this lobby.  Why don't we just admit Israel as a 51st state? But then they would have only two Senators and a few House of Representatives. This way they control most of Congress. No wonder that the annual 3.5 billion tax dollars go to Israel without the slightest debate! What a contrast to what happens when the American people after dreaming for decades for a universal health care system, get the present health care bill's gift to the insurance industry.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Mondragon Alliance: The Goal Is to Create Jobs By Putting People First

from Solidarity Economy. 
In the midst of economic devastation and oppression, the people who originally formed and supported the Mondragon cooperatives did so out of necessity to feed and provide for their families.  They started their own schools, created their own jobs, provided their own health care and met their own banking and financing needs.  Theirs is a story about self-reliance and pragmatism, not just idealism. 

Humans, Climate Change

from Common Dreams, originally carried in The Bangor Daily News. The article makes an excellent argument for the common American belief in capitalism as essentially a religion that has still not been shaken by the recent collapse of the economy for many working and middle class people. However, it is clear that the author can only imagine some form of regulation of this system to make things right.

Mike McConnell, the WashPost & the dangers of sleazy corporatism

by Glenn Greenwald. This article is important for two reasons: first, it illustrates how American fake democracy works by tracking one individual as he moves in and out of government and corporations; second, it once again reports on efforts by a powerful corporation to increase surveillance and control of US citizens' access to the internet which is frequently lauded in US media as a bastion of freedom in contrast to nations like China.

U.S.: Restrictions Undercut Legal Aid Fund for the Poor

from IPS news service. The class war continues in the form of denial of legal protections for poor people.
For the past 14 years, the non-profit company set up by the U.S. Congress to provide legal services for the poor has been forced to short-change the needy because of severe government restrictions on how it can use its funding, critics charge.

US oil company donated millions to climate sceptic groups, says Greenpeace

from the Guardian. 
Report identifies Koch Industries giving $73m to climate sceptic groups 'spreading inaccurate and misleading information'

Vistory for the Overlords- Obama's Healthcare Reform

from Media Lens (Britain). The article provides British coverage of the passage of the US health care reform bill in contrast with various US critics of the bill.

Time out for laughs (click on cartoon to enlarge)

There's still nothing new on Iran

from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
...the media has seriously misrepresented the actual contents of the report. In fact, no new information has been revealed. Such incorrect analysis shouldn't be taken lightly, however; it weighs in the balance between war and peace in the Middle East.

Judge Invalidates Human Gene Patent

from the NY Times. I wonder when this will be overturned by The Supreme Court.
The case could have far-reaching implications. About 20 percent of human genes have been patented, and multibillion-dollar industries have been built atop the intellectual property rights that the patents grant. 

Coverage Now for Sick Children? Check Fine Print

from the NY Times. Is there no end to the deceptions used by the ruling class to hookwink the American people?
Just days after President Obama signed the new health care law, insurance companies are already arguing that, at least for now, they do not have to provide one of the benefits that the president calls a centerpiece of the law: coverage for certain children with pre-existing conditions. 
Also, read Yves Smith's take on this in her article, "Health Care Bill Bait and Switch".

Dodd's Financial "Reform" Bill Is Nothing but a Placebo for a Very Sick Economy

from Washington's Blog. More deceptions! In this case, efforts to reform the financial industry. With so many elite financial experts advocating breaking up the banks, the big question is why they are not doing so.
Just this week, a Moody’s report stated: “…the proposed regulatory framework doesn't appear to be significantly different from what exists today."

Assembly-Line Medicine

from International Health Workers for People over Profit. 
...capitalism is not about quality care. Its priority is to make profit and control the subsequent damage in the cheapest way possible. The hospital industry opposes staff-to-patient ratios because they interfere with the ability of managers to cut costs and, in the private sector, to raise profits.

Monday, March 29, 2010

After Copenhagen: Can We Save the World?

from Climate and Capitalism. The article attempts to answer this question:
...why do they [the governing classes] always support solutions that do not work, that cannot possibly work?

Globalization Marches On: Growing popular outrage has not challenged corporate power.

by Noam Chomsky from Common Dreams. 
The future depends on how much the great majority is willing to endure, and whether that great majority will collectively offer a constructive response to confront the problems at the core of the state capitalist system of domination and control.

Obama Packs Debt Commission with Social Security Looters

from Alter Net. 
For the commission to reach an agreement, its Democrats will have to win the support of at least two Republicans, which will be nearly impossible unless spending cuts are among its proposals. That Obama’s picks are so amenable to, if not gunning for, some form of benefits cuts suggests the White House is indeed seeking such a "grand bargain" from the commission, not a stalemate.

Karzai's China-Iran dalliance riles Obama

by M K Bhadrakumar from Asia Times Online. The author is an avid observer of The Great Game that ruling elites like to play. Here is an interesting take on the sudden visit of Obama to Afghanistan. 
Clearly, the Americans are furious that Karzai is steadily disengaging from the US's grip and seeking friendship with China and Iran. Pretences of cordiality are withering away even as Washington realizes that the ground beneath its feet is shifting.

Security Watch: Beware the NSA’s Geek-Spy Complex

from Wired Magazine. 
...when Google calls the NSA, everyone watching sees it as a package deal. The company wants geeks, but it runs the risk of getting spies, too. The NSA’s wiretapping directorate has a vested interest in keeping company information at least slightly open in case they need to take a look someday....

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Child Obesity in America: "Mommy, Mommy! Why Am I Fat?"

by David Kendall from Global Research. An excellent article that makes the right connections between poverty and obesity, and then offers the appropriate solutions.
While American society has become abundantly more affluent over the past quarter century, most of that gain has been concentrated amongst a shrinking upper class minority of people whose incomes are derived primarily from ownership, not from wages. In response, the FDA has prescribed additives like monosodium glutamate and high fructose corn syrup for American workers that are in debt up to their eyeballs because they haven't had the purchasing power to pay for healthy food since the 1960s.

CNN Scrapes Bottom of Right-Wing Barrel With Erickson Hire

from Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. Corporate media keeps moving to the right with this new hire while Bill Moyers program is "not exactly replaceable".

Democrats Pass Health Care Bill. But is this a Reason to Celebrate?

by Fran Karas from Socialist Alternative. The author cuts through the media hype and deceptions regarding the health care bill.
By the end of the process the proposals did not pose much of a threat to the industry. As long as they managed to avoid competition by government-run non-profit alternatives, they were in the clear. But if the insurance industry had embraced any of Obama’s proposals and called off the bitter campaign of resistance, they would have allowed proponents of real change enough room to organize and strike back. The only way to avoid that was to keep the “other side,” i.e. progressive forces, on the defensive by denouncing even the most moderate change. The strategy worked wonderfully.